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Tillerson speaks for first time after being fired by Trump

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends a Cabinet meeting. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
March 13, 2018

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday afternoon said he was handing over all duties and responsibilities at the end of the day to the deputy Secretary of State, and that his service will terminate at midnight at the end of March.

Tillerson spoke for the first time at a press conference on Tuesday following President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement in the morning that he was naming a new Secretary of State, and subsequently a new CIA director.

Trump fired Tillerson as Secretary of State and is replacing him with current CIA Director and former Congressman Mike Pompeo.

Trump announced his decision in a Tuesday morning tweet.

“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” Trump tweeted. “He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”

Tillerson said he will return to private life as a proud American who is proud to have served his country.

Tillerson served just over a year in the position; he was confirmed as Trump’s Secretary of State last February. He reportedly did not know the President was going to make the announcement today, nor does he know the exact reason for his departure.

Tillerson reportedly learned of his termination after he read Trump’s tweet.

“The Secretary did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve,” State Department Under Secretary Steve Goldstein said.

Trump and Tillerson were never fully in sync on public messaging, and both men constantly released contradictory statements and agendas.

One example of this was with North Korea.

Trump constantly took a more aggressive and public approach to dealing with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un – which has since appeared to have paid off, as the two are expected to meet in person for the first time ever.

While the White House had confirmed that the President would meet with Kim Jong Un, reports Monday had Tillerson saying there was no direct confirmation of the meeting yet, an indication that Trump was not keeping the Secretary of State in the loop on progress with North Korea.

Back in October, the President had told Tillerson to “save his energy” when it comes to talks with North Korea.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…,” the President tweeted, referring to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Trump added: “… Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

Later, he also tweeted: “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.”

Tillerson had previously said the U.S. has a direct line of communication with Pyongyang.

“We are probing, so stay tuned,” Tillerson had said at a press conference in China. “We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation or a blackout. We have a couple of direct channels to Pyongyang. We can talk to them. We do talk to them. Directly, through our own channels.”

“We’ve made it clear that we hope to resolve this through talks,” he continued, saying the main goal “is a peaceful resolution.”

“I think the most immediate action that we need is to calm things down,” Tillerson said. “They’re a little overheated right now, and I think we need to calm them down first.”

The President effectively shut down Tillerson’s statements and alluded to the fact that his Administration and, most likely, the U.S. Military would take care of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump and Tillerson have also not seen eye to eye on other issues, including Russia, the decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and the decision for the U.S. to leave the Paris Climate Agreement.